Aliens in This World

An ordinary Catholic and a science fiction and fantasy fan.

Friday, August 06, 2004

Japanese Christianity: The Martyrs of Otome Toge

I'd heard before of how a Catholic church (Oura Tenshudo) was built in Nagasaki in the 19th century for foreign merchants to use, just before the Meiji government came in. I'd heard how the Hidden Christians (Kakure Kirishitan) showed up there one day. I'd also heard that the shogunate government persecuted them since the anti-Christian statutes had not been repealed for Japanese subjects. But I'd never heard the incredible story of how those persecutions continued under the 'enlightened' revolutionary Meiji government. (As they say on Rurouni Kenshin, "the Revolution isn't done yet.")

So I think you'll be as fascinated as me to read "Martyrs of the Meiji Era" and learn the story of the Martyrs of Otome Toge (Virgin Pass).

"...These Christians are poor farmers. If we teach them, I am sure we can persuade them."

So the government decided on this policy, and the "re-education" of those Nagasaki Christians began. They were gathered for a series of lectures aimed at persuading them to give up Christ and adopt Shinto.

The Christians listened respectfully to the talks but adamantly refused to give up their faith. "We have kept this heart despite great hardships for two hundred and fifty years. Do you think that because of your talks we can betray our very hearts?"

So the Christians were divvied up and sent to various towns for reeducation, augmented by whatever measures the local authorities thought good. One batch was sent to Tsuwano. They were imprisoned on the grounds of an abandoned temple in a pass looking toward Mt. Fuji -- Otome Toge, "Virgin Pass". This was the first administrative assignment for the young man in charge, he was far from the capital, he was eager, and he was creative. Things got ugly.

In midwinter of that year Yasutaro, 30 years old, was placed in a 3-foot cage and subjected to brainwashing day and night for three full days. It was a fruitless task; he remained firm.

The other Christians were concerned about him. Always quiet but cheerful and very generous, he used to share his meager rations with the others and take upon himself the most disagreeable chores. One freezing night, Senemon and Jinsaburo managed to cut their way out through the floor of the prison and sneaked out to encourage Yasutaro in his 3-foot cage. In spite of the midwinter mountain cold, he seemed to be as cheerful as ever.

"Aren't you lonely and freezing?" they asked.

"Oh no, no," he replied. "Almost every night a beautiful lady comes and speaks wonderful things to me. At times she stays until dawn. She is dressed in blue and looks just like the statue of Santa Maria in our Nagasaki church . . . But please say nothing of this while I am alive."

"Yasutaro, if we can ever contact your mother, what do you want us to tell her?"

"Please tell her that I am happy to die here. I am on the cross with our Lord Jesus."

Senemon and Jinsaburo slipped back into the temple to report to the other Christians, who were filled with joy and new courage at the strange and wonderful news. They thanked God for sending the Blessed Virgin to console them.

A week later, the two leaders sneaked out again--only to find the cage buried beneath deep snow and Yasutaro dead inside. It was January 22, 1869.

As they say, though, read the whole thing. You'll want to meet all these folks and learn their stories, including little Mori-chan and the cookies.

In Japanese, the Catholic Martyrs Memorial in Otome Toge. Nice pictures -- click on them to see an enlarged version. Here are the gardens and the chapel interior.

The Otome Toge Festival and pilgrimage.

Otome Toge, circa 1880 and circa 1895. Here's info on the pass in 1945.

A little more "History of the Otome-Tohge Pass" and a page of information about Father Flynn, the author of the "Meiji Martyrs" article above. Also a little information about Hagi, another town where folks from Urakami in Nagasaki found martyrdom.

More information Oura Tenshudo in Nagasaki. Apparently it's dedicated now to the 26 Martyrs who were crucified back at the beginning of the shogunate.

Ibaraki Christian Heritage Museum.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Meditate Among Yourselves: Carpenters!

Courtesy "The Earth Book" of Miyamoto Musashi's A Book of Five Elements, from Kampai Budokai, let's think about Jesus Christ in His professional mode: as a carpenter! (Of course, Musashi was discussing warriors in terms of a skilled trade, but the useful thing about facts is their multiple applications.)

The master carpenter is the organiser and director of the carpenters...

The master carpenter must know the architectural theory of towers and temples, the plans of palaces and all sorts of structures, and must employ people to raise up houses. In this way, the Way of the master carpenter is comparable to the Way of the commander of a warrior house.

In the construction of houses, caruful selection of woods is made. Straight unknotted timber of good appearance is used for the revealed pillars, straight timber with small defects is used for the inner pillars. Timbers of the finest appearance, even if a little weak, is used for the thresholds, lintels, doors, and sliding screens. Good strong timber, though it be gnarled and knotted, can always be used thoughtfully in consideration of the strengths of the other members of the house. Then the house will last a long time.

Even timber which is weak or knotted and crooked can be used as scaffolding, and later for firewood.

The master carpenter distributes the work among his men according to their levels of skill. Some are floor layers, others makers of sliding doors, thresholds and lintels, ceilings and so on. Those of poor ability lay the floor joists, and those of even lesser ability can carve wedges and do such miscellaneous work. If the master knows and deploys his men well the work will progress smoothly and the result will be good.

The master carpenter should take into account the abilities and limitations of his men. Circulating among them, he can know their spirit and different levels of morale, encourage them when necessary, understand what can and cannot be realised, and thus ask nothing unreasonable. The principle of strategy is like this.

Like a soldier, the carpenter sharpens his own tools. He carries his equipment in his tool box, and works under the direction of his foreman. He makes columns and girders with an axe, shapes floorboards and shelves with a plane, cuts fine openwork and bas reliefs accurately, giving as excellent a finish as his skill will allow. This is the craft of the carpenters. When the carpenter becomes skilled, he works efficiently and according to correct measures...

The carpenter will make it a habit of maintaining his tools sharp so they will cut well. Using these sharp tools masterfully, he can make miniature shrines, writing shelves, tables, paper lanterns, chopping boards and pot-lids. These are the specialties of the carpenter. Things are similar for the soldier. You ought to think deeply about this.

The attainment of the carpenter is that his work is not warped, that the joints are not misaligned, and that the work is truly planed so that it meets well together and is not merely finished in disjoint sections. This is essential.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Blog to Watch: The Fifth Column

Someday, I'm going to put up a blogroll again. Remind me to include this blog. Here's a good post on why Catholics don't witness often:

"...What is it about Catholicism that makes personal sharing about one’s relationship with Jesus less likely?"

John Paul II has already answered this question. How many men and women begin a conversation by talking about their love for their spouse? Most married people, especially men, simply don't engage in that kind of conversation. We don't start a conversation with "Good heavens, I love my wife! And I just wanted to come before you to say that she's the best little woman in the world."

Evangelicals emphasize the Lordship of Christ or the fact that Jesus is their friend. But you never hear them talk about Jesus as their lover. For Catholics, that is all there IS to talk about.

And here's one on abortion and Cherryh's The Faded Sun Trilogy.

Twenty years ago, C. J. Cherryh wrote a series of science fiction books, the Faded Sun trilogy. In it, she introduced beings called the regul – cannibalistic frog-like creatures who brought forth the best in their race by ritually chasing down and eating their own children. Whatever children were quick enough and clever enough to survive to adulthood were thereby vindicated as the best.

When one of the human characters asked how the regul could be so bloodthirsty, the regul’s reply upset my teenage worldview. The regul pointed out that their methods of winnowing the population was really no different from that of human beings. The regul simply killed the slow and stupid very early on. Humans tended to wait until youth reached the teens and early twenties, when war served the same purpose the regul winnowing ritual served. The regul couldn’t see why the humans were so upset.

Why mention this? Well, the release of David Reardon’s latest study in the Journal of Contemporary Health Law and Policy now allows for a similar comparison to be drawn between eastern and western culture.

Read the whole thing. It's devastatingly true.

Monday, August 02, 2004

Meditate Among Yourselves

What if a bomb went off during, or right after, you were in church?

Would you be at peace with God and your neighbor, able to face pain and death with peace and patience?

Or would you be found in a moment of anger as you watched what other people were up to, or tried to get out of the parking lot?

Would you be the one causing someone else to be angry?

The Church Bombings in Iraq

I didn't much like the lack of detail in the church bombing news reports, so here's what I've dug up. The most helpful articles were from Channel News Asia, Arabic News, Middle East Online, Al Bawaba, and Al-Jazeera. Then Christianity Today came out with exactly the synthesis article I'd been trying to write. But my post is shorter, at least.

Pictures of the aftermath. (May be disturbing. In fact, they should be!)

All the attacks took place at about the same time, during or just after evening Mass on Sunday. The clear intent was to kill as many Christians of all denominations as possible, but with a special emphasis on Catholics. However, many Muslims were also hurt in the attacks, and many other Muslims aided in rescue efforts and have condemned the bombers in the strongest terms.

The first carbomb exploded at Our Lady of the Flowers, the Armenian Catholic Cathedral in Baghdad, in the "upmarket" al-Karradah or Karada neighborhood. I haven't been able to learn the name of the parish. They were just fifteen minutes into Mass. Parishioners ran out, only to see another explosion.

The second carbomb hit Seydeta al-Khalas (Our Lady of Salvation/Deliverance), a Syriac Catholic church about 200 yards away. Brother Louis, a deacon of that parish, was quoted in news stories, as was Bishop Raphael Kutami.

From the New York Times:

In the Karada neighborhood in central Baghdad, worshipers had gathered for Mass at the Armenian church, when, one witness said, a Volkswagen Passat pulled up and exploded. The engine flew 200 feet and landed in the street. Flames raced to the sky in front of the church.

Minutes later, a few blocks away, a second explosion erupted in front of the Syrian Catholic church, sending people running, engulfed in smoke.

Safaa Michael, who was at the service, heard the first explosion. When the second blast came, "all the glass fell down over our heads." Blood stained his temple.

The church went suddenly dark. The explosion had cut the electricity.

Zaid Gazee Al-Janabi, 30, a security guard and a Muslim who lives down the street, watched the bomb blast off the roof of a house next to the church. He pulled five bodies, including those of two children, from the ground floor. They were Muslims. They were his friends.

Seydeta al-Khalas

Iraqi nun outside church

The third carbomb struck the complex of the Chaldean Church of the Disciples Mar Putros and Mar Polos (St Peter and St Paul), an ancient monastery, and St Peter's Seminary, in the al-Doura or al-Dura neighborhood of southern Baghdad. Six were killed. St Peter's is the only Chaldean Catholic seminary in the world.

From the New York Times:

Faris Talis, a Muslim, said he was in his tire repair store on Sunday evening when the first car bomb exploded on the street, spattering bits of glass and metal. He said he looked up to see a man, who he believed was involved in the attack, run into the seminary's parking lot. Then the second blast went off in the seminary compound. He ran inside to help what he said were scores of wounded and dead.

"I am a Muslim and I was evacuating them," he said. "I feel terrible about this. Whatever did this is a criminal. He doesn't have any mercy in his heart."

In the seminary parking lot, about a dozen cars sat scorched and smoking inside the front wall, at least one tipped on its side. Glass, ash and car parts were strewn around the lot, about 50 yards from the main building. Heat radiated off the blackened metal, as several men carried a blanket to one of the cars, apparently to retrieve the body of someone who had been trapped inside.

The parking lot.

Boy next to cross on gate

Friends from different faiths

Iraqi priest and nun survey the damage.

More Iraqi nuns and yet another.

Another Iraqi priest and Tears

The fourth carbomb hit Mar Elias (St. Elijah of Heyra) Chaldean Church, in Hay al-Amin in New Baghdad, a suburb east of Baghdad. It exploded just as parishioners were leaving Mass, so casualties were also high here. A Shiite mosque adjacent was holding a funeral service when the bomb went off, damaging their building as well.

New Baghdad

The fifth attack came against Mar Polis (St. Paul) Catholic Church in Mosul, in the Mohandessin neighborhood. This parish got two carbombs and an additional attack with rocket-propelled grenades.

Relatives mourn one of the victims.

Another device, full of mortar rounds, was found at St. John the Baptist Church (not Catholic) in the al-Karradah neighborhood in Baghdad. By the mercy of God, this one did not go off, but was found and defused. Also, another carbomb was detonated in a Christian neighborhood in Kirkuk, but incredibly, there were no deaths or even casualties.

Damage to a graveyard

Someone has to clean up. Love, grief, and faith.

The Iraqi National Guard prevents further bombings.

Iraqi opinions about the bombings, via Fayrouz.

May the Iraqi people always stand together.

Here's a brief rundown on the Eastern Catholic Churches involved:

Armenian Catholic and dioceses

Chaldean Catholic and dioceses

Syrian Catholic and dioceses

Here's a general page on the Chaldean Church and other Christians in Iraq. This Chicago page talks about Assyrian/Chaldean heritage and customs. It reveals that Assyrian Martyrs Day is August 7th, and commemmorates both a 1933 massacre in Simele, Iraq, and all innocent Chaldean/Assyrian victims of such actions.

(Btw, "Our Lady of the Flowers" probably refers to Mary's roses, of which the Armenians are fond. However, the Duomo in Florence (Fiorenze) is actually named "Santa Maria del Fiore", referring both to Mary's lily and the one on Florence's heraldic one. I'm not clear about which St. Elias/Elijah is being commemmorated.)

Wisdom from the East

Mohammed from Iraq the Model posts about genocide in the Sudan.

It’s always dictatorship. We all know that it’s the reason behind all evil things on earth but we still deal with it in the same old way...Actually dictatorships are the real WMDs. Every now and then they commit massacres worse that the ones WMDs can cause. Dictatorship is a corrupt fountain of poverty and human sufferings and it’s the mother of terrorism and fundamentalism.

Preach it, brother.

I think democracy is a lot like a watering hole in a dry season. All sorts of creatures drink from the water: predators, animals on the fast track, critters that travel in herds and flocks, the weak and sickly, the young, the scavengers.

You may not love the predators or the scavengers that gather around democracy. But without democracy's water, the young, the weak and the sickly would be the ones that would die first. The fast trackers would do their best to leave everyone else in their dust. The predators would eat everything else, and when they starved, the scavengers would be the last to die. But sooner or later, everyone is weak and sickly.

Rigged for Silent Blogging

I was quiet this weekend because I was spending a lot of time out. I was at Auntie Bun's funeral Friday and at my parents' house most of the day on Sunday. Saturday I had a previous engagement at the Basefilk. (Phil Textor got us an air-conditioned lodge at Wright-Patt for the increasingly irregular local housefilk.) I've been getting up early and getting back late, and I'm bushed...and now I have to go to work. Sigh.

A Modest Step Back

My post below was probably a bit hard on the Old Oligarch's post. Curt Jester pointed out one of the good bits.

But that doesn't mean I'm going to wear a swimsuit with a skirt attached (yuck! yuck! ugly and stupid-looking, at least for women built like me!) or suffer guilt about exposing men to the lascivious allure of my elbows.

To respond to further comments in the blogosphere, there is absolutely nothing wrong or immodest about wearing a skirt, dressy sandals, and no hose in the summertime. At the funeral this weekend, I even saw my oldest great aunt, bastion of fashion conservatism and nitpickiness, wearing just an outfit. (Though I don't advise this for folks with more varicose veinage than my formidable great aunt.)

On the Meditate Among Yourselves front...remember the Lyke Wake Dirge?

If ever thou gavest hosen and shoon,
-- Every nighte and alle,
Sit thee down and put them on;
-- And Christe receive thy saule.

If hosen and shoon thou ne'er gav'st nane
-- Every nighte and alle,
The whinnes sall prick thee to the bare bane;
-- And Christe receive thy saule.

If God dressed us in only our acts of charity, just how naked would we be? Can any of us claim modesty in that sense?